North Pike officials will begin a behavior modification strategy targeting younger students in a bid to reduce classroom disruption following a vote during Thursday night’s school board meeting.

Superintendent Dennis Penton said the program is badly needed at the lower elementary in Summit. The program will serve students in kindergarten through the fifth grade.

“The need has reached critical mass,” he said. “Some of these students are disruptive to the point of violence.”

Penton said the school district is obligated to provide support for those students.

“We’ve got to provide the right services that will be of the most help to these students,” he said.

The course, restricted implicitly to a small size, will be held through a partnership with Southwest Mississippi Mental Health, Penton said. The six-month program is meant to begin when classes resume following winter break in January.

Mental health services provider A Clear Path of McComb will provide a behavioral expert who is trained in coping strategies and other aspects of behavioral health for children.

Many of the students who will enter the program struggle with ADHD and oppositional behavior disorder and need expert attention, Penton said.

The class will be self-contained and the goal is to transition students back into their usual classrooms after successfully modifying their behavior. Penton said the program is meant to be rehabilitative, not punitive, and may prevent students from entering alternative school when they’re older.

Penton said the search for an instructor and an assistant teacher will begin immediately. He said A Clear Path already agreed to participating in the program and Medicaid would cover its expenses.

The motion to create the behavior modification program passed unanimously. Trustee Etta Taplin was not present.

Trustees also:

• Received a catalogue of district policy drafts, including the school safety and crisis plan and district wellness plans, for their first readings. Trustees have one month to read the policies, which will be discussed at the December board meeting.

• Approved a low bid of $28,755 from Marsalis Mechanical Contractors of McComb to install a 900-foot gas line at the lower elementary school. Penton said the underground portions of the gas line, installed in the 1960s, are leaking and need to be replaced. Penton said the expense will be covered by bond and construction funds.

• Received an $11,000 donation to North Pike Lower Elementary school from the Weyerhaeuser Giving Fund. The funds are earmarked for the library and student engagement programming.

• Recognized kindergarten teacher Beckie Nieman for her receipt of a Mississippi Professional Educators classroom grant.

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